Just kidding about the headline. I like David Postman. I think he’s a great reporter. And I don’t even know if he drinks. In fact, hypothetically, if I were developing my own online news venture to compete with our city’s two dailies, and I raised enough venture capital to do it right, Postman would be one of the first reporters I’d attempt to hire away from the Seattle Times.
Yesterday I critiqued our two dailies’ coverage of the Sonics hearing in Olympia, posting the two ledes side-by-side. I thought it instructive that two papers covering the same hearing should come away with such different story lines. And to some extent, I think that Postman agrees:
I think it’s a good day for journalism when the Times and the PI take different angles or dig up different facts. That’s what makes having two papers important.
So I’m not really sure why Postman understood my post to be a “baseless attack” on his colleagues, or why he felt the need to characterize me as “wrong-headed”, “fatuous” and, well… drunk?
David Goldstein crows about how he has no pretense toward objectivity. That’s the only way to explain his fatuous bit of journalism criticism today. Goldstein read stories about the Sonics in the Times and the PI, and as he often does, decides that the Times is showing bias.
Actually, I decided that both stories were biased. No doubt I prefer the P-I’s bias, but I never singled out the Times. Indeed, I thought I was rather specific:
I’m not implying any intentional bias on the part of the various reporters, just that bias inevitably exists, and inevitably seeps through every journalist’s work, no matter how hard they try to suppress it.
Um… how is this a “baseless attack” on the Times?
Postman is clearly offended, and goes to some length deconstructing my rather brief post in an effort to show how little I understand the facts reported, or the business of journalism in general. His main point?
But Goldstein just isn’t paying attention if he thinks the financing plan was the news of the day.
As for the Renton vs. Bellevue angle, that was, in fact, news. It wasn’t known before yesterday. It was new.
Actually, the “Renton vs. Bellevue angle” wasn’t exactly news either. The choice of the Renton site was leaked way back in December, and widely reported at the time. (I spent an hour on it while filling in for Dave Ross.) If you’re going to say that it is only news when Clay Bennett confirms it, then you might as well just reprint Sonics press releases.
Given the fact that the details were already widely known, I’d say that the news of the day was the hearing itself, and how legislators reacted to Bennetts demands. But then, that’s just one man’s opinion.
Which once again is my point. I don’t know how many times I need to explain it on my blog, or say it to Postman’s face: I love newspapers and admire his profession. But I simply don’t believe that objectivity is humanly possible. I repeat:
The “journalism generally practiced in America” today is an historical anomaly that grew out of the media consolidation that shuttered the vast majority of dailies early in the twentieth century. “Objectivity” was a necessary sales pitch required to reassure readers that one or two dailies could adequately replace the many different voices to which they had grown accustomed. It is also a wonderful ideal, though unfortunately impossible to achieve in reality, for as Woody Allen astutely observed, even “objectivity is subjective.”
I’m not one of those bloggers who long for the extinction of the legacy media, nor do I think this modern American model of an objective, fair and balanced press will ever perish at the hands of us advocacy journalists. But there’s certainly more than enough room for both models to coexist, and to some extent, converge. Both models can be equally honest and informative, as long as the practitioners remain true to themselves, and to their slightly divergent ethical principles…
But in the end, how is my openly biased blog really any different from the op-ed section of any major daily? Facts are facts, and when I get them wrong my readers abrasively taunt me in my comment threads. The rest of what I write is nothing but personal spin and opinion…
Postman writes that “alleging bias in a newspaper reporter is a serious matter,” and he spiritedly defends his colleagues from what he assumes to be a personal insult. But I didn’t allege bias in a reporter or a newspaper or even his profession. I alleged bias in our entire species. That is the human condition. We are all biased. Each and every one of us will experience the same event somewhat differently, shaped by our own unique personal histories and perspectives. Two different ledes were written off the same hearing, and yes I do think it instructive to highlight the difference.
Postman refers to my Tuesday night Drinking Liberally festivities and jokingly implies that I should have slept off my hangover before writing. In truth, the post was admittedly rushed as I was late for a meeting. Perhaps Postman would have been less offended had I taken the time to pen my intended closing: an attack on Times publisher Frank Blethen for his efforts to make Seattle a one-newspaper town.
I apologize, David, for not being more thorough.